Thursday 28 January 2010

Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air

You may have read Jon’s blog yesterday where he informed you that – at last – both Animals & Men and the CFZ Yearbook 2010 are now available in the flesh so to speak. He also added a little teaser in the posting mentioning the ‘tea-towel’ hanging over the door in the background, but omitted to actually explain what it was doing there.

Some of you may have thought that this was an enigmatic message from the Director. Some of you may have assumed that it was just one of those senior moments that caused the oversight. However, quite obviously it is NOT an ordinary tea-towel! In fact, it is not a tea-towel at all – I mean how many of you have actually seen a such a thing that size just to dry your tea-cups and plates? Perhaps this is what may have confused you into a puzzled silence? However, Theo has been brave enough to question the existence of said piece of cloth and the unresolved mention of it in the posting.

So for Theo and any others of you who may have been quietly musing on the subject of why it is hanging so ... erm ... elegantly (?) in the inner sanctum that is Jon’s office, I shall spill the beans. The bath towel (or even maybe a beach towel by the shells printed upon its rather tatty surface) is not suspended there for Jon to gaze at in the depths of winter and muse upon holidays in the sun. Neither is it there to hide the faces of those long past residents who may visit us, as they are prone to do on occasion.

I wish there was some scientific explanation for its existence, but I am afraid to say that it is there for pure comfort. It is pinned to the door – albeit in a very Heath Robinson manner - to stop the draught whistling through the letter-box - and the coldness that panes of glass magically emanate during cold weather - from encroaching into Jon’s work space and causing icicles to hang from his proboscis! Perish the thought – he would look like Jack Frost, Ebenezer Scrooge and Hagrid-on-ice all rolled into one.

To solve the problem, we will be trawling around some charity shops in the next few months to obtain long curtains for all glass doors in the cottage in order that next year we can try and make the inside a bit less draughty. We also hope that such decorative additions will not give such a blaring impression of some hippy student accommodation of the kind that used to be found in Camden Town!

Ah yes; those tall Victorian windows, draped with makeshift curtain arrangements, with the notes of Steve Hillage’s soporific Om Nama Shivaya, the hypnotic sound of Pink Floyd’s Echoes, or the tribal beat of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir oozing through every crook and cranny, accompanied by the scent of patchouli and a certain aromatic herb wafting lazily on the air. Long ago halcyon days for many of you I am sure. Sadly not me though; I had the LPs, I had the patchouli but it was in my bedroom from whence their sounds and scent came – and I had very nicely hung curtains too; dark purple if I remember that matched my Biba lampshade.

Cute baby time again

Yes it is cutie time again. Little Oliver the koala was born last April at the Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina to Lottie and Jimmy, but spent his first few months in his mother's pouch. He has now become too big to stay there, but still makes sure he stays close by tucking himself under her stomach or clinging to her back.

Koalas look like the cuddliest teddy bears of all time, but are in fact marsupials. When born the youngster, or joey as it is called, is about the size of a jelly bean and travels through the birth canal to its mother's pouch where it is nursed for several months. As it grows it may stick out an arm or a leg, or even its head, for short periods of time before it is confident enough to emerge into the outside world completely. It was not until Oliver was around 7 months old that keepers caught their first glimpse of him.

When he reaches 12 months he will be considered mature and will be weaned from his mother, and, in due course, will be sent to another zoo under the breeding recommendations from the SSP (Species Survival Programme).

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Intuition, Inanity or just plain Insanity

A strong intuition can be a very useful sense to possess, but it can also be a sod if it proves correct in its assumptions when you would rather it didn’t. Saturday was one of those occasions when it punched me between the eyes and said ‘See I told you so’.

It put me out of sorts for the rest of the day, but no doubt I shall be able to file it away in a dusty compartment along with the others collected over the years. I am assuming that this sense matures as your body does – well in my case it certainly seems to at any rate. Over the last five years or so it has become more active and has been proved to be a reliable forewarning on every occasion so far. However, not all confirmations of this weird feeling that something is amiss manifest themselves straightaway – it can take months to do so, but a confirmation does reveal itself eventually.

The question is, should you actually rely on it to lead you through your daily life, or should you try to suppress it and rely on your other instincts, for example good old fashioned common sense? Or is this such a strong instinct in its own right that it should be listened to and not ignored? When that feeling in your very bones screams out that something is not quite right with X, Y or Z should you accept that you are being given a pertinent suspicion and go with it?Many people say they have a strong intuition, but does each person who says they possess it actually experience it in the same intensity as others? Or is it just a basic sense that kicks in for self-preservation akin to flight or fight, but with more warning?

Can you have an intuition about more than one thing at the same time? Does it have its own agenda and cross items off as and when they are proven? Why does it kick in and from where? Does intuition continue to sniff out a result or does it have a cut off point? And when does intuition cross over into premonition?

Quite frankly, I am intrigued by the whole subject. Or am I just slowly sliding off my trolley?

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Colin's crowing causes consternation

It would appear that a certain cockerel called Colin has been doing what comes naturally and upsetting the neighbours. This blatant audacity on his part could well mean that he will have to be destroyed. The fact that a wild peacock also does what comes naturally and doesn’t seem to attract the same response from the neighbours does seem slightly peculiar, considering that the weird mewing call of a peacock can be somewhat more penetrating than a mere cockerel.

However, a family in Hampshire have been served with a noise abatement order by the East Hampshire District Council after neighbours complained about Colin. Well one set of neighbours it would seem; ones that moved in three years ago. More to the point, neighbours who voluntarily moved into their £1 million 8-bedroomed house in the countryside where such sounds as cockerels crowing is to be somewhat expected just as the bleating of sheep, the mooing of cows and the odd whinny and nicker of a horse or pony.

Nevertheless, the neighbours called in the council who, after utilising their recording and noise measuring devices, found Colin guilty of regularly crowing before 6 am .

Let us just hope that if Colin does have to leave (he only arrived there last September) it will be to a new home rather than having to be destroyed.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Prose and Podiatry

I have recently been proofing a book by Andy Roberts, the publication of which is on the nearing horizon (and it is a very good book by the way, so keep your eyes peeled for its appearance on our ‘available’ list). Apart from it being an excellent read I found myself compelled to:

a) listen to the Incredible String Band and

b) read Thursbitch by Alan Garner

I am not going into detail as to why (you will have to read Andy’s book to find out) but I can say that the Incredible String Band are, indeed, very much worth listening to and I am not sure why I had never tuned into them before. As for Thursbitch - excellent is all I can say. The book arrived in the post on Tuesday morning and I eagerly started to read it that night. In the short time it took to reach the bottom of page one I was hooked. It was only the fact that it was 2 in the morning and I needed to be up early the next day that I had to reluctantly place it on my bedside table to await the next evening. Yes, the dialect is so strong in some places that you find yourself having to read some of it again, slowly and pronouncing each word silently to yourself, but I managed to understand the gist of it. I am now waiting to see what Jon thinks of it, as he was as fascinated as I was in reading it.

The peaceful serenity of the wee small hours of Friday morning was shattered on several occasions by exclamations emanating from the body next to me of “Get off my bloody feet!” Before you raise one eyebrow and ponder upon the possibility that I was having such a restless night’s sleep that I was thrashing about and migrating to the bottom of the bed to lay prone across Jon’s size 12s, I can honestly plead my innocence of such a thing. I was not playing a game of football or practising the can-can whilst in the arms of Morpheus either.

The culprit was black and white, four-legged and weighs much more than you would imagine when looking at him, and when every muscle in his body is relaxed, you can lose all feeling in your lower limbs, if that is where he has chosen to rest himself. If you are also suffering severe discomfort from those lower limbs, I can imagine that the situation must become unbearable.

The voicing of the wish that the dog should leave the vicinity was echoed throughout that morning – Biggles does not exactly possess the finer points of elegance when trotting around the household and, after deciding that playing slalom between Jon’s legs whilst he sat at the computer was great fun, it became a major dilemma.

The main problem that had prompted the above exclamations of distress was the fact that although Jon had received some of his ordered medication on Thursday, one particular packet of tablets was missing. This predicament was not discovered until that night, and as these were the ones that help control the pains he has recently started to suffer in his feet, the lack of them caused him to have a greatly disturbed night , and an uncomfortable start to the day. Luckily, the need for these tablets was sorted out with the pharmacy later in the morning so there was relief in the end.

However, the whole situation was exacerbated by the fact that Thursday night was also the first time Jon had to take a different set up of drugs, which consequently resulted in him waking up feeling abominable. So, although his feet may not be quite so sore, his system is still taking a while to get back to normal.

And to top it all – I finished Thursbitch Thursday night too and have yet to find a suitable replacement book to read. Damn and blast.

Saturday 23 January 2010

It don't grow on trees you know

Is it true that more than a quarter of teenagers think that bacon comes from sheep? Not only that, do a third really think that oats grow on trees and just under a fifth believe that eggs are a basic ingredient of bread (is the breakfast delicacy 'eggy bread' to blame for this I wonder)? According to an article that I read today, this would appear to be the case. We all know that you cannot always believe what you read in the papers, but in the light of today’s education, somehow the above information does tend to urge me towards believing it.

Therefore, the understatement of the week has to be:

It shows how important it is to teach the adults of tomorrow about the food they eat,’ said Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers’ Union.

‘Everyone should know where primary foods like cereals are grown and the role they play as part of a healthy balanced diet.’

Apart from the fact that they would look pretty foolish arriving at a ‘pick your own’ establishment and asking “Where are the oat trees?” or asking a sheep farmer whether he sells home-farmed “ham joints” for Christmas.

Just to confuse the issue even more, though, remember this classic April Fool that had hundreds of callers ringing in wanting to buy spaghetti bushes?

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Stealthy sea mist, helpful glow worms and beehive bombs

Monday evening was one of those nights when the mist from the sea spreads from its watery origin, creeps across the land silently, and envelops everything in its damp grasp. Sometimes you can witness the noiseless conquest, as it weaves its way through the trees at the bottom of the garden and oozes its way across the whole area; within minutes everything is wrapped in its eerie grip.

Letting Biggles out last thing at night is usually not too much of a problem, as the white tip on his tail never fails to signal where he is. However, this little beacon is obscured from view in the murky embrace of sea mist, and you are forced to shadow his every move to ensure that his whereabouts are known. After all, it is no use just standing at the back door repetitively calling the poor soul if he has ‘gone to see a dog about a man’ as that could have disastrous results if the meeting were only half convened.

You know me enough by now to know that I have the tendency to ramble on about different things in blogs. Sometimes one thing leads to another and sometimes there is absolutely no connection whatsoever. This offering is one of the latter breed, so I offer no apologies and proudly proclaim, ‘And now for something completely different’. However, in writing that, the last paragraph below is somewhat reminiscent of Pythonesque humour.

The trenches in World War 1 are to where I sidetrack. Not shrouded in mist but under cover of darkness; a darkness that could not be penetrated by the light of a lamp for fear of deathly consequences. I discovered last night that soldiers used the soft light from glow worms by which to read messages and maps. I had never heard of this before, and after a long time searching the internet I could, unfortunately, only come up with recasts of the above sentence, but no further information. I did glean though that soldiers also used to attach pieces of rotten wood to their helmets to avoid colliding with each other in the night; not to act as some weird sensory form of whiskers, but by utilising the luminescence that the rotting wood afforded. I then discovered that during the Second World War fire watchers used to cover the wood in timber yards with tarpaulins in order to keep any glow hidden from enemy aircraft. They just don’t teach such fascinating little gems of information in history lessons, more’s the pity. It would make the learning so much more interesting to hear such fascinating little snippets.

During my investigative efforts delving for more information on the glow worms, I came across something else that I had never heard or read before - the Romans used to catapult beehives into besieged fortresses. Yes, rather distasteful but you have to admit that it was a very innovative idea to use such things as weapons. Also, during the Middle Ages beehives used to be occasionally dropped on to the heads of an attacking army. It certainly gives new meaning to the 50s/60s favourite - ‘beehive hairdo’.

As Jon points out, is this one of the earliest form of biological warfare, or do any of you know of anything that predates the Romans?

Sunday 17 January 2010

Bordering on chaos

Hopefully this week we will be able to erect Biggles’ agility bar in the garden. Gav gave it to me for Christmas but due to the inclement ground conditions we have not yet been able to put it up. Thankfully, it does have 3 or 4 adjustable height settings so I can ease my poor legs gradually into high jumping (ok a slight exaggeration) again. It is a long time since I did the scissors high jump (and I could never grasp the Fosbury flop – there is something about throwing yourself backwards and upside down, that is just not right). I am assuming that, as he is quick to learn, Biggles will soon get the hang of the idea that it is intended that he jumps over the pole rather than watch, with head cocked to one side, and laugh at me trying to do so.

He has certainly proved that he can pick up on things very quickly. I also had a book teaching you how to get your dogs to do ‘tricks’. Basics like sit, down etc are covered, of course, but there are some that are probably not best taught, for example opening doors. I hate to imagine what new chapter of delights that could open if he learned how to let himself out of the house as and when the desire took him! Maybe when he is older and wiser, but not while the wannabe-Houdini urges still gush through his veins as freely as they do now. There is even a ‘fetch beer from fridge’ command which, to me, is liking tempting an innocent man. It would take a well-trained, strong-willed dog not to have a crafty snuffle at the lump of cheddar cheese or sausages sitting harmlessly next to the beer, before trotting off happily – mission successfully completed in more ways than one.

Since having the book we have been able to teach him "speak" and "roll over", whilst finishing off the training for "shake hands" that I had started quite by accident a few weeks before Christmas. I don’t really believe in teaching dogs to perform things like beg but there are plenty of fun things he can learn that I am sure he will enjoy doing. In fact 101 of them all told!

Over the past couple of weeks, he has taken to sitting on the chair next to me while I am working and laying his head in my lap. I think if he were asked he would probably say that he wished he was a King Charles spaniel or some such other lap dog! He just hasn’t managed to get his lanky legs under control yet and gets himself tied up in such uncomfortable looking knots sometimes, and then falls off the chair.... to a quiet snigger from whichever cat happens to notice.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Goblins, lynx and bears oh my

I suppose you could refer to me as something of a monster hunter. You know how it goes: ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’. Anyway, I always fancied being a female version of Van Helsing (mind you, come to think of it, being his assistant might be a more interesting idea if he did actually bear a resemblance to Hugh Jackman). Oh boy, that long leather coat, that hat and THAT crossbow. Why it was decided that Russell Crowe would make a great lead in the new Ridley Scott ‘Robin Hood’ when HJ would have fitted the part soooooo beautifully I cannot begin to understand. I can only assume that the latter was unavailable. Oh well c’est la vie. Hugh in Lincoln green tights and leather jerkin will have to wait then .....darn.
Uh hum, where was I?

Lost my thread there.

Do I really, once or twice a week - as and when spare time arises - don my walking boots, anorak, gloves and woolly hat (or pith helmet, shorts and flip-flips depending on what time of year it is) together with my large butterfly net, stills camera, video camera and collecting jar/body bag? Then do I really kiss Jon on the forehead and tell him not to wait up for me ‘as I may be some time’ and disappear into the darkness to hunt down such beasties as barghests, hobgoblins, boggarts, ghosts, trolls, dragons and even the odd lake monster or two?

Sorry to disappoint, but ‘fraid not. Well ... not really, although some of that may be true – in a way.

Methinks that I probably didn’t phrase my first sentence as accurately as I should have done. I should have added the word ‘armchair’ before the two magical words ‘monster’ and ‘hunter’. I am actually referring to the online Lord of the Rings game where I can vent my spleen on any hapless orc or any of the aforementioned beasties, or where I can wander fields of green or the mines of Moria and attempt to keep myself alive using tactics of cunning. Or, as is quite often the case - especially when Biggles needs to suddenly go outside for a pee - suffer defeat at the hands of miscalculated bravery/stupidity or having to leave myself in a less than ideal place where I can get my ankles chewed off by a roaming warg.

However, I suppose you could say that I get to see more monsters than most people and even have trophies on the walls of my Shire Homestead house to prove it.

Monday 11 January 2010

A winter's woes

When I was little we used to live in a house without central heating, but we did have the luxury of a gas fire in the front room and an open fire in the back. Therefore, the downstairs part of the house was usually nice and cosy. Bedtime was a bit of an adventure but we used to get undressed downstairs and leg it to bed with our hot water bottles so didn’t really get that cold. It is ironic that all these years later with supposed improvements in living conditions that I am colder than I have ever been, bar perhaps once.

I have a cold, and I am cold. I am feeling sorry for myself and think I deserve a bit of a moan. My circulation is poor and my feet can be chilly even in the summer so at this time of year even wearing three pairs of socks and fleece lined Uggi-type boots seems to make no difference. I am wandering around the house with five layers of clothing on and even have to wear my mittens at the keyboard. A good way of getting my hands warm is to wash up – and then only briefly because although the Raeburn is gallantly heating up the water as much as it can, it has had to be turned down due to the astronomical rise in oil prices. Therefore it no longer warms the kitchen and dining room like it used to and the hot water diminishes after a couple of bowl’s worth of dirty dishes. Then it is time to get the kettle on to supply some hot H2O by way of a different source – which of course then adds to the electricity bill. A well worn Catch 22 situation really.

The only time I can remember being this cold was one Christmas when my father was in hospital after having his gall bladder removed. The central heating at home had broken down. Being that it was Christmas – and remember in those days shops etc did actually close for a certain period of time – we had to wait a week or so before we could get anyone out to fix the central heating to avoid paying extraordinary out of hours prices and wait in a queue of similarly afflicted householders. I seem to remember that it was eventually sorted out a day or so before my dad came home from hospital.

I recall that it was extremely icy outside – whether it had snowed or not escapes my memory – but my mum and I used to go out to visit dad at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, which was a good train ride away from Uxbridge. So we walked down to the station, sat on a warmish train for a bit before sometimes having to change trains at Rayners Lane and stand around for a bit more. When we got the hospital it was absolutely stifling and we used to look at each other in despair when my dad used to complain that it was too hot in there for him. It is always so difficult to try to explain how cold it is to someone when that person is lying in bed in greenhouse temperatures. In the summertime you can sit outside in the garden in your shorts and t-shirt and not remember how cold you can actually get just a few months later – the brain is peculiar in its selective memory. They always say that women would never have more than one child if their brains allowed them to remember exactly how painful the whole process is.

Then it would be back home for us in the icy cold. By the time we got indoors our feet were numb and there was nothing to heat us up very quickly as we had no open fire in that particular house. We had a couple of radiators, which took their time to heat up a room. So what, we survived and I will now – we have it a lot easier I guess than some. We have an open fire in our sitting room and although it fills the bottom of the house with a thin veil of eye-irritating smoke it does take off the chill. With doors closed it can get quite cosy in there which is great if you have nothing to do all day and can sit around like a character from Jane Austen and do some embroidery, drink tea, eat seed cake, and then perhaps have a sing song around the piano. The staff would lay the fires upstairs in the bedrooms and bustle around the kitchen preparing the aforementioned hot beverages and cook would be up to her elbows in sponge mixture. The most energetic physical action would be reaching one’s arm out to pull the bell that would ring in the scullery.

Catch up of a snowy week in Woolsery Part 2

Whilst Olivia and Ivan went off to Barnstaple on Saturday to do some shopping for the chinchilla, which they were taking back with them, Shosh, Gav, Biggles and I went off for our tramp through the woods.

We were trudging our way back towards the car when, for the second time since having my camera, I discovered that I had lost my lens cap. The first time I ‘lost’ it (the cap that is, not my marbles – they spilled out of the marble bag and rolled under dense shrubbery a long time ago) was at Drusilla’s Park in East Sussex in 2007. On that occasion I had to retrace my steps across the whole zoo whilst Jon waited for me under cover as it had begun to rain. I returned some while later after an unsuccessful mission only to find the annoying little circle of plastic in one of my pockets (and yes I had already checked upon my person in the first instance, and on several other occasions whilst wandering around looking for the blasted thing).

Out in the cold, wintry wilds of Powler’s Piece, I had checked my pockets with numbed fingers to no avail. Around this time I had also decided that enough was enough and that I would have to answer the call of dear Mother Nature even though she had picked the worst possible time to send out her message of importance. So leaving Shosh and Gav to retrace our steps from whence we had plodded (plus Biggles – he would have been too much to handle in an already delicate situation) I was left to bound over a frozen drainage ditch from the ride into the forest beyond. This was a tricky business for several reasons, not the least being that the snow covered what could be dodgy landing ground on the other side and it would not be until my right foot made contact that I would find out whether or not it was a good place to make that leap of faith. Luckily it was and I scuttled off into the snow-covered boughs of pine forest with urgency in my step, and for the sake of propriety I shall leave the story of Mother Nature’s intervention there.

My point to all this really is to wonder why all cameras can’t have their lens caps on a piece of thin knicker-type elastic so stupid people like me who suffer from severe senior moments can avoid such occurrences when out and about, getting up close and personal with the wonderful world around us. It would also be fun to play with in one of those boring moments whilst waiting for prospective subject matter to move closer into view for example. But alas, on my camera it is a separate entity and I am surprised that it has actually stayed in my possession for as long as it has.

After leaping back across the ditch I was relieved (in more ways than one) that there was no-one there to see me as my stumbling around would have been embarrassing for me, yet highly amusing for them. I lost my footing slightly which led me to have to throw out my arms to steady myself as I veered to the left and nearly tripped as I got my right foot caught in some undergrowth. I felt a bit like the hippo I saw once on TV that had been shot with a tranquiliser dart. By the time I met the others coming back my composure had returned, my hat had been repositioned correctly and any wisps of wayward hair had been tucked behind my ear to avoid me looking like "Bertha Rochester" after an afternoon out on an outward bound course. Thankfully, good ol’ Gav had spotted and retrieved the missing lens cap so all was well.

So, it was back home to hot tea and cake and unfortunately the news that the Met Office had issued a bad weather warning for snow in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It had been intended that Olivia and Ivan would stay until Sunday but because of this warning – and the fact that it was imperative that they got back to Exeter for work on Monday morning – it was thought it prudent that they returned that night after dinner instead. Dinner was late – as ever – and by the time they left it was getting on a bit, but they got back home safe and sound.

As a final word (or two) I know I posted a video of Dean Martin singing Let it Snow a few days before Christmas, but this was not a request, Dean, thanks very much.

Catch up of a snowy week in Woolsery Part 1

Excuse my absence from blog-land this past week. Shosh and Gav have been on a week’s holiday with us and I have been out and about and doing mother ‘stuff’. We have been on long walks with Biggles in the snow and as you will see from Jon’s blogs, we have come across some odd things whilst taking our constitutionals in the woods in the area near us known as Powler’s Piece.

The same day that we came across the odd snow-person we misjudged our return stroll to the car and it became something of a speed walk as the sun was setting. It seemed to drop like a stone rather than descend serenely, but it did make for a great picture as the sky took on a beautiful orange glow merged with the dark ominous looking clouds. The snow-person (complete with the yellow stains left by Biggles earlier) soon appeared in front of us and we knew we would make it back to the car without my having to hold on to Shosh and Gav while wailing that we were done for. The snow-person got another dose of Biggles’ attention as he ambled passed it prompting the query of why he was so interested in it. My macabre sense of humour suggested that it probably disguised a body.

Forests can be eerie at the best of times, but at dusk when the rooks are returning to their roosts it can become very creepy, especially when they all seem to spook and flap overhead as if escaping from some evil afoot below in the dense weaving of boughs. But then that is just my wild imagination getting the best of me, plus a dose of watching too many late night horror films in my youth when in the house on my own and with the lights switched off. There is something about watching old black and white horror films whilst curled up on the sofa that cannot be matched these days.

Then, to make sure no nastiness was lurking, there was the obligatory check under all the beds, plus inside all the wardrobes – I always opened the doors with a flourish – before I retired to my own bedroom. It was the insatiable desire to pull open the curtains that were pulled across the French windows that overlooked the back garden though that were the most compelling – there was always a burning need to do so, accompanied by the obvious tingle up the spine at the thought of some weird contorted face staring back at me. However, this thought never failed to provoke the action and I would always gingerly peek with one eye through a crack in the curtains before quickly drawing them apart.

However, that was years ago and bringing it up here is a symptom of what my mother calls a grasshopper mind. Most of the family seem to possess it.

On Friday night Olivia and Ivan came across from Exeter for a family get together and for the girls to give each other their Christmas presents. The sweet lads and lasses presented Jon and me with a ‘stocking’ each too. Jon became a tad emotional that he had a stocking and I had a tear in my eye when Shosh and Olivia presented me with a framed montage of photos of themselves as babies/children. It will be put in a place where I can see it daily and have a silent ‘aww’ to myself. My girls have grown into such loving, thoughtful young ladies….their respective blokes are pretty cool too.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Max in an adventure with mashed potatoes

As I mentioned in an earlier blog posting, Max (Blake) was with us a week before Christmas during his break from university. He came down for Marjorie Braund’s funeral and stayed with us until the Friday. Whilst he was here Jon got him into the kitchen to prepare the sweet potatoes for dinner one night, and a little secret emerged. Max had never cooked potatoes before, let alone mashed them. I must admit that I have never mashed sweet potatoes before either, but considering the process is pretty much the same – stick masher in saucepan and pulverise the little tubers into submission – I found myself giving an impromptu cookery lesson to the dear boy.

All was going reasonably well until my potato masher started to bend rather alarmingly. This has been going on for some months, but I am used to the little critter behaving in such a recalcitrant manner. I did warn Max that this might happen - just in case he thought it was a sign that his young muscles were impressively strong. I am not convinced that he believed me though so when it did start to bend as if by some otherworldly power he looked a bit askance. Jon, of course, couldn’t resist wickedly blaming the bent metal on him and exclaimed “How could you do that to Corinna’s potato masher?” Well that was the gist of it, even though I must embarrassingly admit that, if my memory serves me well, it was phrased slightly differently and in a way that Max is well used to by now.

Anyway, the sweet potatoes were mashed with a delicate profusion of milk and butter and were absolutely delicious. I think Max actually enjoyed himself whilst preparing this part of our supper.

Yesterday, I received a package in the post. I was completely dumbfounded as to what it could be as I was not expecting anything. Upon opening it out popped a brand, spanking new potato masher.

Thanks Max – you dear, sweet lad.

Next visit I will introduce you to the ironing board and Jon’s larger than average shirts.

Winter in Woolsery

We all awoke this morning to a find a fairly thick blanket of snow covering the garden and large flakes still tumbling silently down.  You always know when it has snowed overnight as the world around becomes silent. A childish glee awakens inside you at the sight of the snow mingled in with the slight panic of whether you have enough milk etc to last in case you get snowed in. 

Biggles, however, has no such concerns.  Whereas last year he paid not too much attention to the snow, this year he loves it and has been out and about bounding around thoroughly enjoying himself.

Even Jon had a spurt of snowy jollity with a snowball:

Yesterday Shosh and Gav came down for a week's visit and a late Christmas with us.  They had had snow in Stoke on Saturday and Shosh had spent just over an hour getting home from work on a journey that would normally take 10 minutes. Yesterday morning we discovered a recurrence of a leaky pipe in our "utility" area which, despite Graham's gallant efforts, decided it would resist all efforts to be tamed and reared its ugly head again last night.  Hence this morning it had been planned for him to go into Bideford to get some plumbing bits to try and sort it out.  So the snow this morning threw a bit of an icy spanner in the works.  However, off he went and Shosh and Gav bravely volunteered to ride shotgun with him.

Well done all three of you..

Monday 4 January 2010

It is just my magnetic charm

There is this Van de Graaff Generator:

And then there is this one:

Anyone who remembers their science lessons will know that if you touch one of the last of these two examples you get, quite literally, a hair-raising reaction.

Yesterday I was doing some recording with Jon for On the Track and it seems that I am just one lump of static protoplasm without any need for scientific input. It took hours to try and get rid of the static that oozed from my very being - even trying the 'strip off to my underwear scenario' in case it was my clothing that was causing the problem - but to no avail. Apart from getting a trifle chilly that is, but at least you can't accuse me of not giving my all for the cause. Luckily it was a Sunday afternoon and no-one was expected to come a'calling. If someone had turned up then I would have had to perform a delicate petit jeté into the sitting room (just as I did have to do anyway when Biggles ran off with my temporarily discarded jumper like a wolf with a deer carcass).

Then in the middle of our efforts a book threw itself off a shelf, but I am not quite sure that that little incident had anything to do with me .... or did it?

Friday 1 January 2010

Lang may yer lum reek!

I was going to post a rather sweet picture of two chicks wearing top hats but then I got sidetracked into watching a video of Fred Astaire performing Putting on the Ritz which, although a superb piece of footwork, does not really have anything to do with New Year's Day. And then I thought well neither do two little chicks wearing top hats.

Therefore, I will just leave you with a simple message:

The last page of 2009 has been turned and consigned to our library of memories.
Happy New Year to you all.

PS: the last word of the title of this blog may well be confusing some of you. The translation is long may your chimney smoke. I believe its origin comes from when people had coal fires and if the chimney was smoking it meant that you could afford coal and keep warm.

I am now doing something that I have never done before. I think that messing with my wife's blog would be an unbelievably bad thing to do and probably injurious to our marriage.
However, I cannot let such heresy pass!!! NOTHING says `Happy New Year` more than cute chicks wearing hats. It sums up the entire ethos of the CFZ as we enter another decade JD